The Union by T.H. Hernandez
(The Union #1)
Publication Date: November 18, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
After global warming and a second civil war devastated the former United States, two different societies rose from the ashes – the Union, a towering high-tech utopia, hugging the perimeter of the continent, and the devastated, untamed midsection known as the Ruins.
Seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor has an easy, privileged life in the Union. What she doesn’t have is any idea what to do with the rest of her life. She only knows she wants to do something meaningful, to make a difference in the lives of others.
When she’s kidnapped and taken into the Ruins as a pawn in a dispute involving her boyfriend, Bryce, her ideal world is turned upside down. What she learns while in the Ruins shakes her faith in everything she’s ever known, from Bryce, to her family, and even the Union itself.
Now Evan must choose whether to stay with Cyrus, the sexy, resourceful survivor who believes she’s in the Ruins for a reason, or return to the only life she’s ever known. But when she stumbles upon a dangerous plot that threatens both worlds, her decision could tear her apart.
The Union is a futuristic young adult romantic adventure.
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Excerpt from The Union:
My eyes flutter open to complete darkness, my brain cloudy. My shoulders ache and my arms are numb from sleeping on them. When I try to sit up, the moments before I blacked out come rushing back, filling me with dread.
My hands are tied behind my back, so the best I can do is roll to my side. I strain into the darkness to make sense of my surroundings. I’m inside something that’s moving. It’s too dark to make out anything, so I rely on my ears. A train. But not the L-Train, nor a commuter train. Maybe a cargo. My pulse throbs behind my eyelids and I fight the urge to vomit.
Shit, shit, shit. Tears fill my eyes, but I can’t afford to cry. I need to figure a way out of this mess. Lisa and Colin must have looked for me when I didn’t come back. That only provides small comfort though, since I have no idea where I am or how they’d find me.
None of this makes any sense. The only kidnappings in the Union are due to custody disputes. Maybe Eddie had me kidnapped. Except that’s completely crazy. If he was going to do that, why wait until I’m almost an adult and already on my way to see him?
This must be about money. A ransom or something. That seems so fantastic though, like straight out of a movie. There was that one kid who disappeared a couple of years ago, but it turned out he’d just run away.
Maybe it’s got something to do with my Uncle David. As one of only seven governors, he has an incredible amount of power. Only the Prime Minister has more. Unfortunately, it’s the only thing that makes sense. If I have any hope of surviving, he might have to give them what they want.
Excerpt from The Ruins:
The inky sky wraps around us, the cold cutting through our new, thicker coats as we close the front door behind us. Colin slings the backpack with our stuff over his shoulder and heads down the steps with me on his heels.
“So, you were just going to leave without saying goodbye?” calls a familiar raspy voice.
“Shit, Rainey!” I say. “You scared the crap out of me.”
“Good. You should be scared.” She steps out of the shadows, arms crossed.
“Save it. You were going to sneak out without a word.”
I shrug. “I figured you’d try to talk us out of it.”
“You’re right. This is a suicide mission. You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”
“How did you know?” I ask.
“I’ve been watching you since we met. And while it’s pretty clear you had something going on with Cyrus, I don’t think you actually came out here to find him. You came into the Ruins a thousand miles from where you last saw him.” She shakes her head. “Something always felt off there. Then all of your questions about the Uprising…it doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.”
“Well, it’s not the sort of thing you go around announcing to people you just met, especially after you find out one of them used to be a Commander.”
She’s quiet for a few minutes, studying us. “Well, if you’re stupid enough to go through with this, the least I can do is help you. You’re a walking advertisement for the Union. They’ll spot you coming a mile away.”
“What do you mean?”
“The way you’re dressed for starters. That we can fix. The way you speak and carry yourselves is harder to hide, but maybe you can pass.”
She hands Colin a backpack.
“What’s this?” he asks.
“Clothes. You need to change. You can’t show up at a recruiting center wearing designer clothing.”
Colin pulls out two pairs of jeans, a couple of shirts, socks, and boots. Everything is used, worn, comfy looking.
“Go change. We can talk on your way out of town.”
Colin and I slip back inside, dressing in the old clothes, leaving our Union stuff folded on the floor by the door.
Rainey is waiting for us on the front porch. “Leave the backpack, too. It screams Union. Take these.”
She hands us each a frayed canvas backpack. We transfer our food and water to the old backpacks and hand ours to Rainey.
“How’d you know we were leaving this morning?” I ask Rainey as we make our way down the street.
“Last night’s dinner was obviously a farewell feast. Coupled with Ally’s crying, I figured it was going to be fairly soon. I thought you might sneak out after we left and wandered back here late last night.”
“You’re nuts, you know that?” Colin says.
“So,” she continues, ignoring Colin. “What are you planning on telling them when you get there?”
I glance at Colin and we both shrug.
“That’s a problem. Recruiters will be curious why you’re volunteering. You need a believable story.”
“I thought they were so desperate, they’re taking anyone,” Colin says.
“True. But they’re still going to ask why you’re joining up. You don’t want to say anything to make them take a closer look at you.”
“So we can’t just say we believe in the cause?” I ask, tripping over a rut in the road. Colin reaches out a hand to steady me.
The look Rainey gives me after I right myself indicates I’m about as prepared for this task as I am to perform brain surgery. “No, you can’t. Everyone here has a story. Good or bad, but no one believes in the Uprising cause without a reason.”
“What do you mean?” Colin asks. “Since I’ve been here, no one has anything good to say about the Union.”
“Right, but do any of them look like they’re ready to go to war for their opinion?”
“No, probably not,” he says.
“So, what makes someone willing to die for a cause?” she asks.
Colin shakes his head, but I get it now. “People you care about. Walker’s goons killed Lucien. I’d do anything to take him down,” I say quietly.
“That’s what I mean,” she says.
“Why’d your sister join up?” I ask before I can stop myself.
“My mom got sick. My dad tried getting medicine from the Union, but the drugs were too expensive. When she died, he drank himself to death. My sister blamed the Union for both of their deaths.” I have nothing to say to that, and she quickly turns the conversation back to us. “Stick with the death of a loved one at the hands of the Union. You don’t need a big elaborate story. Keep it short and sweet.”
When we get to the edge of town, Rainey stops. “This is where I get off.” She reaches out and hugs me stiffly, then Colin. “Be careful.” She turns and starts walking back before we can thank her.
“She’s a little unusual,” Colin says.
Excerpt from The Uprising:
The unevenly paved Mexico streets are as jacked up as any out in the Ruins. Rainey and I make our way past colorful buildings with chipping paint and rusted railings surrounding precarious balconies. But at least the ground isn’t moving.
“You’re looking a little less ripe, there, Cyrus,” Rainey says with her raspy voice.
I cut my eyes to her, but don’t respond. I’ve never been as sick in my life as I was on that boat. All I want to do is get to a hotel and lie down. Aside from the sea sickness, we had an uneventful trip. No one paid any attention to us when we docked, and we’ve walked for several hours now without being accosted.
Since we’re posing as a couple, when we approach the center of town, I reach down and take Rainey’s hand. It’s even smaller than Evan’s and feels foreign resting in mine.
Rainey lifts her gaze to mine and smirks. Yeah, she’s about as thrilled with this ruse as I am. We enter the lobby of a stained green two-story hotel with crooked, worn shutters. A stone floor lists to one side as we make our way to the registration desk where a guy with a thick mustache and a bright orange button up shirt greets us. He says something in Spanish with enthusiasm, smiling so hard his cheeks nearly touch his ears.
Rainey responds, indicating me and continues on in a rapid fire conversation. She hands him a few bills and he gives her a key.
I follow her back outside, carrying our bags. One duffel is filled with a handful of clothes and toiletries and the others are stuffed with more bags to carry guns and ammo back to the Union. Money is sewn in hidden pockets in our fatigues, a knife is strapped to my ankle, and a gun sits in the waistband of my jeans.
Rainey heads down an alley only wide enough for us to fit through single-file. Behind the hotel is a staircase that wobbles with each step. Great. She stops at a door at the end of a narrow balcony with only a suspect railing to keep us from tumbling down the rocks to the beach a hundred feet below.
We enter a dark room smelling of vomit and dirty socks. A queen-sized bed is against the wall and a beat-up upholstered chair and ottoman sit in the corner.
“Only one bed?”
“We’re supposed to be a couple visiting from the Northern Territories,” she says. “I couldn’t very well ask for two beds.”
Rainey is about half my size, but there’s no way I’m letting her sleep anywhere but the bed.
“Okay, I’ll take the chair.”
She snorts. “You don’t have to do that. Your virtue is safe with me. Plus, you’re not exactly my type.”
My head swings her way. “Wrong plumbing?”
“Ego much? Wow, just because I don’t want to get all sweaty and horizontal with you, I must not be into guys. Is it really that rare for a hetero girl not to fling herself at you?”
I roll my eyes, not in the mood for this, but if we’re going to share a bed, might as well get this conversation over with. “No. It was the way you said it. I don’t know, forget I said anything.”
“You’re not bad to look at or anything, I just prefer my guys to be…less pathetically in love with someone else.”
“Point made. I’m gonna lie down until my stomach stops heaving. Join me or don’t.”
I flop on the bed and close my eyes, still feeling the gentle, and then not-so-gentle, rocking of the waves until I doze off.
Excerpt from The Invasion:
Liquid fills my nose and mouth and I claw in front of me, searching for the surface. I gasp, choking on a combination of air and water and shove my drenched hair out of my face. Hercules One holds an empty bucket at his side, water still dripping from the rim.
Dizziness takes hold when I sit up, my body tilting. H-1 grabs my biceps, yanking me to my feet mere moments before my head would have conked on the concrete. Guess he wants the honor of doing the head conking himself.
Something about my face doesn’t feel right. My fingers run over the planes of my face, hitting a tender spot on my cheek. Pain shoots through my jaw and into my head while stars dance across my vision until everything disappears.
Another blast of water hits my face and my eyes fly open to a pair of cold blue ones staring back at me. “Where did you train?” Draya asks.
My lips part to tell her off, but the words catch on their way out.
Hercules Two approaches me, and without warning his fist is in my stomach. A yell tears from my raw throat and I double over, screaming through my teeth.
“Where. Did. You. Train.”
“In the Northwest,” I gasp.
“Where in the Northwest? Which camp?”
The pain begins to ebb, allowing me to control my mouth. If I tell them what they want, they’ll have no reason to keep me alive. I’m just not sure how much I can tolerate before I verbally vomit the truth along with the threatening bile. H-2 strikes the left side of my face with the back of his hand, sending blinding pain racing from my head into my spine.
“Northwest Seven,” I scream. Shit, at this rate, I’ll tell them everything and be dead within an hour.
Draya’s eyes dim rather than brighten with the information. “Now we’re getting somewhere. Who was with you?”
“Other recruits. There was a whole truckload of us, plus all the kids already there.”
She narrows her gaze before turning on her heel and leaving the room, returning a few moments later with a tablet. “Several soldiers left that camp unauthorized, including the commander. Who was your commander, and where is he now?”
What the hell? First, I’m not telling her anything about Cyrus, even if she tortures me, but second… “Don’t you know who the commander was?”
Her only response is an unblinking stare.
The open-palmed slap doesn’t hurt any less as it rocks my head to the side. The stakes are too high now, and I manage to keep my mouth shut. “Answer the commander,” H-2 snarls.
I bite my lips together and prepare for the next blow, another backhand across my face. In an instant, the face of the first girl I shot to save Marcus’s life flashes before me. I close my eyes and do my best to stand a little straighter and take the next strike as penance for her. The fist in the gut is for the boy I killed, and I crumple to the floor. The boot to my ribs is for the kids blown up when the explosives went off. I hear the first crack, more than feel it. What they’re doing to me pales in comparison to what I did. I can take this, I deserve it. But I can’t prevent the small whimpers from escaping with each kick until the merciful darkness comes to take me again.
T.H. Hernandez is the author of young adult books. The Union, a futuristic dystopian adventure, was a finalist in the 2015 San Diego book awards in the Young Adult Fiction category.
She loves pumpkin spice lattes, Game of Thrones, Comic-Con, Star Wars, Doctor Who marathons, Bad Lip Reading videos, and all things young adult, especially the three young adults who share her home.
When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside her head, T.H. Hernandez lives in usually sunny San Diego, California with her husband and three children, a couple of cats, and a dog who thinks he’s a cat, affectionately referred to as “the puppycat.”
You can find her online at http://thhernandez.com